Grape Returns: Ann Colgin
When Ann Colgin (right) wielded her gavel last January to kick off the bidding for prize lot No. 30, coined the “Treasure Chest” by trustees, she had no idea what would unfold. A vintner by trade and owner of Colgin Cellars in Napa Valley, she had volunteered to stand behind the podium at the Naples Winter Wine Festival’s capstone event for the twelfth year in a row—its live auction.
She had seen much since the very first showdown in early 2001, but this was something for the books. A historic collection of Château Haut-Brion wines (the oldest of the first growths of Bordeaux) was up for grabs and its donor, the head of the famous estate, HRH Prince Robert of Luxembourg, was in the audience. As she inched further up, two bidders became locked in a dead heat. Her heart started to race. She ventured “$550,000” then paused. Before she knew it, Prince Robert stood up and offered to donate a second identical prize—but only if both buyers would pay that amount. A stroke of her gavel later, Colgin netted $1.1 million for Collier County kids.
Bob and Joan Clifford flank Colgin and chef Wolfgang Puck at a 2012 vintner dinner.
Photo by Erik Kellar
Consider that was one of 67 total prize lots, and you get a sense of the significance. “Everyone went crazy when that happened,” Colgin says. “Those bottles are so rare, but that’s the feeling encouraged in this environment.”
Anyone who has been to the event knows the weekend is fueled by the finest nectar of the gods and ambrosial celebrity-chef dinners, but the real reason people pay the $8,500 per couple ticket fee is for a chance to wave their paddles under an enormous tent on the lawn of The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples. Sure, the lots are sweet, like the one Colgin was focused on that night, but the crowd cares about the bigger picture.
Colgin at the Lutgerts’ 2010 vintner dinner.
Photo by Tom Harper
“I’m in awe of the generosity of the people in Naples. I’ve donated my time as a charity auctioneer throughout my career, and at most events, people look at the value of the prizes and don’t go higher than that with the bidding. One of the great things I see here—and nowhere else—is that friends egg each other on in spirited competition to raise more and more,” Colgin says.
She’s retiring from the podium this year (“I’ve done it for so long; we need new life”); however, she will continue to be involved as one of the participating vintners, donating wines for a dinner and an auction prize.
While most of her memories have been up on stage, she’s looking forward to walking away as an audience member with a whole new set of them.
Colgin, Clifford and others prepare the wines to be poured.
Photo by Erik Kellar
Colgin's Favorite Prize Lots of All Time
“I’ve always loved the ones that have involved wine. Some of what does best are cars, art, and trips, but it’s great for me to see people battle it out over the best wines in the world.”
- 24 – She and her husband donated this lot, which fetched $320,000 in 2008 for 24 bottles of 2004 Colgin Cellars wines plus a walk-on role on the TV series 24 and a private dinner with the two of them.
- Perfection – This prize was an assembly of 100 bottles, all from different vintners, and each having achieved a 100-point score from the Wine Advocate or the Wine Spectator, something that would have been impossible for one vintner to assemble solo. “It’s really important to note the generosity of vintners from around the world. These auction items involve a lot of personal time and are expensive to put together.”
- Treasure Chest – “I sold this historic lot at the 2012 festival to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Dillon family owning Château Haut-Brion,” Colgin says about this cache, which had 20 bottles of the vineyard’s finest vintages enclosed in a handcrafted wooden console designed by David Linley stocked with engraved wine carafes and glasses.
Colgin’s husband Joe Wender (right) on auction night with emeritus trustees Scott and Simone Lutgert. In years past, Wender would often surprise Colgin by going in on group prizes and have a friend hold up his paddle.
Photo by Louis Venne